A fifth grader does Dr. Frankenstein one better in this uncomplicated debut. Adam Cricklestein has had an insect zoo in his room since the age of three, but has seen a fair number of his pets done in by nemesis Jeb McCallister, baldly introduced as “the class bully.” Adam’s outrage finally spills over when Jeb tortures and kills a beautiful luna moth. Blowing a year’s allowance on mail-order preserved specimens, he assembles parts of a Malaysian vampire moth, an African emperor scorpion, a hissing cockroach, a giant wetapunga cricket from New Zealand and other outsized arthropods into “Frankie,” an eight-inch, one-pound fighting machine. A jolt from a jar of lightning bugs brings Frankie to life—whereupon Adam discovers that his glittering warrior is a vegetarian, with a decided preference for marshmallows. Nonetheless, when Jeb smashes Adam’s scurrying science project, Frankie gives him a vicious pinch on the butt: or, as Adam writes, “Frankie got the bully in the end. If you know what I mean.” Jeb’s wild tale of being attacked by a humongous bug touches off a town-wide hunt, but when the dust settles, he’s forced to retire in disgrace, true colors exposed, while Frankie becomes a celebrity, and Adam a local hero. Fans of Carol Sonenklar’s Bug Girl (1998), Ralph Fletcher’s Spider Boy (1997) and other stories featuring young people and the creepy-crawlies they love will follow the exploits of this budding but ambitious entomologist with glee. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2000

ISBN: 0-8234-1496-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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This vibrant, thoughtful book from Katz (Over the Moon, 1997) continues her tribute to her adopted daughter, Lena, born in Guatemala. Lena is “seven. I am the color of cinnamon. Mom says she could eat me up”; she learns during a painting lesson that to get the color brown, she will have to “mix red, yellow, black, and white paints.” They go for a walk to observe the many shades of brown: they see Sonia, who is the color of creamy peanut butter; Isabella, who is chocolate brown; Lucy, both peachy and tan; Jo-Jin, the color of honey; Kyle, “like leaves in fall”; Mr. Pellegrino, the color of pizza crust, golden brown. Lena realizes that every shade is beautiful, then mixes her paints accordingly for portraits of her friends—“The colors of us!” Bold illustrations celebrate diversity with a child’s open-hearted sensibility and a mother’s love. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5864-8

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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Florian’s seventh collection of verse is also his most uneven; though the flair for clever rhyme that consistently lights up his other books, beginning with Monster Motel (1993), occasionally shows itself—“Hello, my name is Dracula/My clothing is all blackula./I drive a Cadillacula./I am a maniacula”—too many of the entries are routine limericks, putdowns, character portraits, rhymed lists that fall flat on the ear, or quick quips: “It’s hard to be anonymous/When you’re a hippopotamus.” Florian’s language and simple, thick-lined cartoons illustrations are equally ingenuous, and he sticks to tried-and-true subjects, from dinosaurs to school lunch, but the well of inspiration seems dry; revisit his hilarious Bing Bang Boing (1994) instead. (index) (Poetry. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-15-202084-5

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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